Farm Horizons, Feb. 2011
The faces behind the county fairs
By Starrla Cray
Have you ever stopped to think how the county fairs come about each year?
Well, it doesn’t just magically “happen.”
Fair secretaries and managers of Wright, McLeod, Carver, and Meeker counties can attest to the teamwork, planning, and dedication it takes to provide a successful get-together involving thousands of people.
Meet a few of the faces behind the county fairs:
Wright County Dennis Beise
Few people have been involved in the Wright County Fair as long as Dennis Beise.
“I’ve been on the fair board for 40 years 20 years as secretary/manager,” Beise said.
But Beise’s enthusiasm for his local fair began long before he joined the board, as a boy growing up in rural Delano.
“I always loved fairs,” said Beise, who was born in 1935. “I was in 4-H, and we showed purebred hogs.”
Beise got to know some of the fair board members, and in 1971, he decided to take a more active role in fair planning activities.
During his first three-year term, Beise said he mainly learned from other members and watched how the fair operated.
After a while, he became one of the experienced people, teaching others how to serve.
When the previous fair secretary quit, Beise said he was the “next in line” for the job.
As secretary, Beise is involved in many aspects of the Wright County Fair, from sending out contracts for space rental to selling advertisements for the fair flyer. Beise is also in charge of recording the minutes at the monthly fair board meetings, and helping to plan entertainment and activities at the fair.
“People think the fair just happens,” Beise said. “It’s not that way. It takes time.”
There are about 25 committees for different areas of the fair, such as camping, parking, grounds keeping, Fairest of the Fair, tractor pulls, livestock, and more.
Every year, Beise said the board tries to add new attractions to spice up the fair. Recently, an extra 26 acres was added to the fairgrounds. Last year, it was used to display Minneapolis Moline tractors.
“Every year, we’re going to try to get something different,” Beise said.
Many new buildings have also been added to the Wright County Fair since Beise became fair secretary.
“Our fairgrounds has really been improved in the last 20 years,” he said.
Beise is grateful for his wife, Janet, who often helps with the computer work associated with being fair secretary.
When their five sons were young, all were involved with the Wright County Fair through 4-H. One of Beise’s sons now has a fair concession trailer offering pork chops on a stick.
Beise said he enjoys providing a fun outing for the 55,000 people who attend the Wright County Fair each year.
“I just love to have a clean, nice-looking fair,” he said.
The 2011 Wright County Fair is set for Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 3-7.
To learn more, call Beise at (763) 972-2880 or go to www.wrightcountyfair.com.
Carver County Mike Jensen
Growing up in Kandiyohi County, Mike Jensen remembers his father and grandfather both being part of the fair board.
Now that he has a family of his own, Jensen has followed in those footsteps, except this time, it’s as manager of the Carver County Fair.
“It’s a nice fit,” Jensen said. “I’m an organization-type of person. I like putting things together.”
During the year, Jensen also works full-time as a school counselor in Shakopee.
He first heard about the Carver County Fair position from a newspaper advertisement, and thought it sounded like a fun job that would keep him busy during the summer months.
“Before, I had been painting houses,” he said, adding that he doesn’t miss painting one bit.
Being in charge of a fair isn’t an easy task, however.
“It’s a lot of planning,” said Jensen, who has been manager since 2004. “There’s something to do every day. Either we’re gearing up or tearing down.”
Sending out letters, updating information, and booking entertainment all take time, but Jensen wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I grew up on a farm, and I like having that connection to agriculture,” he said. “Farming community people are the best people around.”
As a former 4-H participant, Jensen also likes working with the children who show livestock.
His own children, ages 4 and 1, are too young for 4-H, but they already enjoy spending time with their father at the fair.
This year will be the 100th anniversary of the Carver County Fair, and Jensen said he is hoping to have commemorative tokens for each exhibitor, as well as special coupons.
“We’re also going to have a parade this year,” he said.
The 2011 Carver County Fair will take place Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 10-14.
McLeod County Marian Filk
Retirement doesn’t seem to stick for McLeod County Fair manager/secretary Marian Filk.
“My situation is kind of strange,” Filk said. “I retired in 2007, after almost 15 years. Then, I came back in 2009 to help out.”
Now, in 2011, she’s planning to step down again and let someone else run the show.
“It gets to the point where new ideas and some fresh energy is good, and it does take a lot of energy for this job,” she said.
That doesn’t mean that Filk’s retirement will be permanent, however.
“I don’t know that it’ll be for good,” she said. “The fair gets into your blood. I’ll always be part of the fair, just maybe not as active.”
Filk said she “married into the fair,” because her late husband’s father and grandfather were involved in it.
“It was a natural progression for me to be involved as well,” she said.
Filk became a 4-H leader when her children were in the group, and joined the fair board in 1981, serving in the home activities department.
She kept that up until 1993, when she became fair secretary/manager.
Every year is a little different, and Filk said she tries to keep the fair new and fresh each time.
One factor that sometimes adds unwanted “variety” to the fair is weather conditions.
“If it rains, it makes it difficult,” Filk said. “Sometimes it maybe isn’t the way we wanted, but we learn to adjust.”
Planning the fair takes a great deal of time, and Filk said she is grateful for a strong fair board that helps with a lot of the work.
“You can’t get it done the week before the fair,” she said. “It has to be done in advance.”
Something different needs to be accomplished each month, but things really start to get wild near fair time.
“I would say the six weeks before the county fair are the busiest,” Filk said.
It can get a bit hectic, but Filk said she doesn’t mind one bit.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s never boring, and something exciting is happening all the time.”
For Filk, seeing fairgoers enjoying themselves makes her efforts worthwhile.
“The things we do make people happy. It’s providing an adventure,” she said. “It’s so fun to see families together, and to see children on the carnival rides. They’re always beaming.”
As fair secretary/manager, Filk has had the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life.
“It’s a busy, but rewarding, occupation,” she said. “I’ve made some really good friends.”
Now that she’s retiring, Filk said she’s excited to spend time with her grandchildren, do some gardening, and tackle a few projects she’s been meaning to complete.
“I don’t think I’ll lack anything to do,” she said.
The 2011 McLeod County Fair will take place Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 17-21.
To learn more, call (320) 587-2499 or go to www.mcleodcountyfair.com
Meeker County Holly Anderson
Despite having a full-time job as manager of the natural foods co-op in Litchfield, Holly Anderson still finds time to serve as secretary of the Meeker County Fair.
“I just enjoy working with people,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’m helping the community.”
Anderson is the type of person who is constantly trying to improve the lives of those around her.
In fact, Anderson’s first Meeker County Fair service was taking care of open-class entries when she was in eighth grade.
“It was a volunteer thing,” she said.
Anderson’s mother, Loree Schultz, has been on the fair board since Anderson was 6 years old, so helping out came naturally.
“I grew up going to the county fair,” said Anderson, who now lives with her husband, Darrin, in her hometown of Litchfield.
This summer will be Anderson’s third fair as secretary.
“The closer we get, the busier we get,” she said. “I always say December’s my month off.”
Even the winter months have something going on, however.
In January, many fair officials from around the state attend a weekend conference in Bloomington. According to Anderson, the conference is a good opportunity to share ideas and make plans for future fairs.
The weeks leading up to the fair are some of the busiest for Anderson.
“I rely a lot on the fair board members,” she said.
During the fair, Anderson can be found entering competition results, answering phones, working at the food stand, or doing an assortment of other tasks.
“I don’t really get to enjoy the fair,” she laughed.
The fair is a lot of work for Anderson, but she finds enjoyment in seeing people who come home for the fair, and sampling delicious fair food.
To learn more, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.